Source: Vientiane Times
Many thousand hectares of forests in the northern provinces have been destroyed by bushfires, prompting authorities to mobilise more volunteers to control the flames.
Bushfires have been reported in Oudomxay, Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang and Phongsaly provinces, according to local authorities.
In Oudomxay, the bushfires have destroyed more than 18,000 hectares of forests in the Phouhiphi Protected Area and other protected forests since mid-March, according to the province’s Agriculture and Forestry Office.
Some 5,895 soldiers, police personnel, officials and local residents (including 486 women) in Oudomxay and neighbouring provinces have teamed up to fight the forest fires but the blazes are yet to be brought under control. Authorities are facing difficulties in accessing some areas in the mountains, and most of the areas are very dry.
Authorities have sought more volunteers and equipment to help control the forest fires. They believe the fire was deliberately lit and caused due to the destructive motives of some local people, who entered the protected areas to hunt animals.
The forest fire in Oudomxay spread to Luang Namtha, where many forested areas have been destroyed.
According to an initial report, the blaze destroyed 400 hectares of forest in Namtalan village, 20 hectares in Namdaengkang village, 70 hectares in Namatmai village, 30 hectares in Pinhor village and many hectares in Namngaen village of Luang Namtha district.
Many hectares of trees within Phounang Protected Area in Xiengman village of Chomphet district were also destroyed by the fire. Local authorities are making an assessment of the full damage.
A forest fire was also reported near the provincial hospital in Phongsaly and authorities are trying to douse the flames.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which is in-charge of managing forest fires, has said everyone should take action to prevent fires, especially in the dry season. The ministry has directed provincial authorities to promote fire prevention strategies among local communities, especially those living near forests.
The government is on a bush fire alert as temperatures rise and the country’s forests become drier.
Forest fires occur regularly in Laos, particularly at this time of the year, when timber is dry and many farmers resort to slash and burn cultivation to grow wet season crops.
This year, most fires have been reported at national protected areas and provincial protected areas. Most of the fires were caused by the destructive activities of local people, including hunting within the protected areas.
The 20 National Protected Areas of Laos cover 14 percent of the country. Dong Natad and Dong Phou Vieng National Protected Areas are located in Savannakhet province, while the Phou Khao Khuay National Protected Area is in Vientiane. The Nam Ha National Protected Area is in Luang Namtha province and the Phou Daen Din National Protected Area in Phongsaly. The Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area is in Khammuan province and the Xe Pian National Protected Area is in Champassak province.
These National Protected Areas contain some of the country’s most unique and diverse plants and animals. Many of them offer the best environments for adventure activities such as trekking, rafting and camping.